But it sparked a controversy at a Bay Area high school this week.
Teacher Steve Cuckovich docked his students' scores after they said "bless you" in the middle of class. He says talking of any kind is disruptive and takes time away from class.
Cuckovich teaches health at William C. Wood High School in Vacaville.
"The blessing doesn't make any sense anymore," Cuckovich told the Fox affiliate in Sacramento. "When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body. So they were saying, 'God bless you,' for getting rid of evil spirits. But today, what you're doing doesn't really make any sense."
Some parents were furious with the teacher, claiming his rule was anti-religious.
Cuckovich apparently listened to the parents. He says he will no longer deduct points from assignments for the disruption, but he added he will continue to control his classroom.
On Thursday, the district made it first comments on the issue. Superintendent John Niederkorn said that Cuckovich thought the students were sneezing in dramatic fashion with the intent of disrupting class.
"It was brought to the District’s attention a few days ago that students were disciplined for being disruptive in class. The teacher believed that students were dramatically sneezing and responding in repetitive fashion “Bless You”. One of the concerns is the social convention of saying “Gesundheit”, “God Bless You”, or “Bless You” after someone sneezes. Of question is whether a series of these repeated remarks by several students constitutes freedom of speech or a classroom disruption and merits student discipline. Vacaville Unified’s Administration is continuing its investigation of this reported classroom disruption.
We are reviewing the impact of this disruption and the student grading policy. Certainly a blessing by one individual to another after a sneeze is a welcomed acknowledgement of a social norm. Hopefully it is not abused as a disruption of classroom instructional activities." Dr. John Niederkorn, Superintendent.
Neiderkorn's final word on the matter is still to be determined.
By Lori Preuitt